Spoofing: What’s it all about?
Spoofing is a fairly sophisticated virtual scam that can fool even the most cautious and careful people. In this post, we’ll help you better understand what spoofing is, the different forms it takes, and how you can protect yourself.
We can define spoofing as an act of disguising something: usually a communication or request for action — seemingly from some known and trusted party, inducing the user to interact with the (unknown) source. It can occur on a somewhat superficial level, such as emails and messages, or through more technical means: such as DNS and IP spoofing.
In practice, spoofing is used by hackers to achieve numerous goals, such as getting sensitive information from their targets, or gaining access to restricted digital environments from which they can launch additional attacks (such as ransomware) — and much more.
How does spoofing work?
It is possible to commit a wide variety of crimes by using information obtained through spoofing activities. Just imagine what a hacker or cybercriminal might do if they’re able to convincingly impersonate a company or another person.
A well-engineered spoof can take over the domain of an email or website to approach a possible victim, or gain access to internet protocols or IP addresses (which act as an identifier for computers connected to the network). Thus, it’s possible to have access to a person’s applications, get hold of their confidential data (whether personal or banking), and a spoofer can even send messages on their behalf.
This type of scam is not new, but its methods and purposes vary and increase every day.
What are the dangers of a spoofing attack?
With the possession of sensitive data, criminals can carry out a series of financial transactions using the spoofing victim’s name. Sometimes this transaction can be done with the leaked credit card details, and sometimes they can impersonate the victim in order to get credit, money from people they know, or make debts on their behalf.
A spoofer can also monitor your activities, gain access to messages sent from your device, and even sell the data they obtain to other companies.
What are the types of spoofing?
Now that you know what spoofing is, it is important to understand that this type of attack can take many forms, from the simple to the complex. Here are a few of the main forms spoofing can take:
Probably the most typical model occurs when an attacker uses an email to trick the recipient into thinking the message came from a trusted source. Typically, this is done in one of two ways: by removing the sender field (so that it is not possible to know who sent it), or by disguising known addresses from unknown senders.
For example, a lowercase “l” and an uppercase “I” are practically impossible to identify in a sender’s address. This type of message can also be sent via SMS (known as “smishing”), or through social media messages and other channels.
Website spoofing occurs when an attacker uses elements of a known page to create a similar or virtually identical copy, often displayed within a context that makes sense.
The idea is for the victim to put their information into the impostor website so that it is intercepted by the attacker.
IP spoofing is one of the more sophisticated attacks, looking to mimic a more technical point. It’s probably a type of attack that the user’s rarely even see, as the goal is to trick the system itself.
For example, a network can be configured to authenticate users according to their IP address. If the attacker manages to disguise the IP and trick you, their access is easily granted.
The idea of DNS spoofing is similar to the previous one. As you may well know, DNS (Domain Name Server) is a system that helps you translate website addresses into IPs. With DNS spoofing, attackers are able to trick the system and redirect traffic to an IP they control.
A simple metaphor can make this example clearer: just imagine that DNS are the signs on the streets, which indicate where a driver needs to go. With spoofing, a criminal “swaps” the street signs, with the aim of taking drivers wherever they want.
This is a different strand of spoofing, with a similar principle. More and more, facial recognition models are becoming popular (to unlock smartphones, for example). For this approach, it’s common for hackers to use photos or videos of the person, with the aim of tricking the system and pretending that they are indeed there.
Good artificial intelligence may offer protection here, because it will be able to identify whether a person is trying to access that system or not.
Spoofing on social networks
Telegram, WhatsApp, Instagram and any other online service of the same category can also be used as a vehicle for spoofing.
In these cases, the victim has their account hacked, and cybercriminals use their profile or account to contact friends or family. Generally, these people simulate some emergency situation to ask for money, or they’ll announce products for sale (at extremely low prices) — but the products don’t even exist.
Telephone spoofing calls can happen when someone impersonates a company or an institution over the phone. This usually happens through a service called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which is used to transmit online calls and spoof the number or name to be displayed on the caller ID.
So be suspicious when your cell phone shows a call with a certain name, but from some number or locale you don’t recognize
How can you detect spoofing?
Detecting spoofing yourself is possible, but as we’ve noted, it’s not necessarily easy.
However, there are some signs that can help identify this type of attack.
Look for English and grammar errors in messages. These can be more serious grammatical errors, such as wrong words, or more subtle, such as certain inconsistencies or strange structures.
Make it a habit to always check the links you are clicking or the email address of senders. Look for any unusual changes, however small. Look closely and compare the domain if you can.
On smartphones, you can place your finger on links for a few seconds, so that a preview window of the content opens, as well as the link;
Note if your browser does not automatically fill in your information (if it usually does) Especially on a site you visit frequently, this may be an indication that you are on a spoof site instead.
Confidential information such as credit card numbers, passwords should only be shared on secure and encrypted sites using HTTPS at the beginning of the URL.
If an email looks sketchy, do a Google search for the content of the email itself. If it’s a known scam, it will likely turn up.
Use the dfndr lab link checker. This is a free tool that tells you in a few seconds if a link is trustworthy or not.
How to protect yourself from spoofing?
Even if you follow all the tips above, protecting yourself can be hard to do. The big problem is that most folks won’t be able to closely observe all these details and stay aware on a daily basis. And this is exactly what hackers count on.
Imagine someone who is going through an extremely busy day, doing a thousand things at once, who receives an email with these subtle changes. The chance of the person stopping to look and detect these errors is small. Hackers know that it is virtually impossible to be alert 100% of the time.
Of course, it’s best not to click on unfamiliar links or attachments coming from emails you’re not sure where they came from. However, as we mentioned throughout the post, the purpose of spoofing is precisely to disguise these attacks as something familiar and reliable.
Another big problem with modern companies is underestimating hackers. Attacks are no longer made by a single person wearing a hood, in a dark basement. There’s a lot of strategy and sometimes large organizations behind these hacks, resulting in attacks that are extremely sophisticated and very difficult to identify, as we have discussed in the examples above.
One option is to avoid clicking on direct links. For example, if you receive an email, an SMS (Short Message Service) or a call from your bank notifying you of a problem, avoid clicking on the link. Access the direct website or the app to confirm the information.
In cases involving social media intrusions or phone line cloning, it is important to be cautious when opting for two-step verification. Several applications already provide this option in their menu to enhance your security.
By creating extra phases for your login in communication apps, a spoofer will not have access to your message history (even if they have access to the confirmation code needed to login) and will certainly find it more difficult to hack your account.
Finally, it’s important to use some security solution (like dfndr security) on your computer to make sure that the pages you access really are trustworthy. A software based on artificial intelligence will have more resources available to assess the security of your network, block potential threats, and protect your device before it becomes the target of an attack.
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